Wednesday 21 February 2018

'You can’t tell me he’s not good enough for Celtic' - John Hartson questions Deila's rift with Anthony Stokes

Celtic striker Anthony Stokes
Celtic striker Anthony Stokes

Joe McHugh

John Hartson believes that the rift between Anthony Stokes and Ronny Deila has become personal.

Since Stokes tweeted about his unhappiness at sitting in the stand at Inverness he has rarely been out the headlines. On Tuesday he was turned away from Celtic's Lennoxtown training ground with Deila explaining yesterday that the suspension and two week fine was for more than his comments on twitter.

Hartson netted more than 100 goals for Celtic under Martin O'Neill and Gordon Strachan and keeps a close eye on the club through his various media commitments which includes the BBC and BT Sport.

The fiery Welshman was never slow to voice an opinion and is amazed at the way Stokes has been treated as Deila attempts to introduce Nadir Ciftci and Carlton Cole as back up for top scorer Leigh Griffiths.

“Here’s the thing I want to know, why on earth is Deila not picking him?” Hartson asked in his column in the Scottish Sun.

“That’s the thing which has been lost in all of the debate surrounding the incident since it happened. Everyone’s had their say on what Stokes did but looking at the Celtic team right now I cannot for the life of me understand why he’s so far down the pecking order.

“You simply can’t tell me he’s not good enough to get into that team. Clearly his manager has an issue with his fitness or his attitude, if not both. Clearly Deila believes others are ahead of him.”

Recalling his own playing days he revealed: “I remember having a blazing row with Martin O’Neill after a Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden. I’d been taken off and made it clear to the gaffer I wasn’t happy about it, and he made it clear who was in charge.

“We virtually had to be pulled apart as we shouted and bawled at each other in front of everyone.

“It didn’t get to the stage where we were throwing fists at each other but it was a heated exchange with a lot of swearing and things being thrown. But I soon realised who was paid to pick the team and who was paid to play in it.”

Twelve months ago Stokes was a regular with Celtic and included in O'Neill's international squad.

His demise couldn't have come at a worse possible time for his international ambitions with Hartson fearing the Dubliner's career may be grinding to a halt.

“If Stokes leaves Celtic on the back of this latest controversy he’ll live to regret it,” he added. “He’s at the peak of his career at 27 years of age.

"He should be playing for the Republic of Ireland and looking forward to next summer’s Euros in France but for whatever reason he finds himself unable to get into a Celtic squad, let alone the team, and you wonder how his career is going to pan out now.”

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